Index - Science - Uncover the secrets of the parachute salamander

Index – Science – Uncover the secrets of the parachute salamander

A study published in Current Biology shows how channel salamanders can constantly parachute, slowing their speed and controlling their movement.

Not only are salamanders famous for their agility and dexterity, said Christian Brown, PhD, a biologist at the University of South Florida, but rather that they come to mind by rotting tree trunks and streams. However, the study points to the controversial nature of the salamander.

A five-gram salamander climbs the tallest trees in the world and is not afraid to jump into nothingness

– Tell Christian brouwn.

Parachute salamander

It was already known that migratory salamanders live in giant pines, especially densely – sometimes 30-40 individuals live in the crown of the tree.

Amphibians are lungless: they breathe through their skin and the tissues that surround their mouths. Wet fern carpets in the forest canopy help prevent them from drying out and provide a safe haven.

In 2020, Brown and his colleagues published a detailed description of how the salamander rebounds. Unlike other types, they used two feet instead of two. It doesn’t take off quickly in a horizontal direction, which indicates that jumping with less force may contribute to post-jump stability.

It’s better to be in control after the jump than to jump hard. After all, if you want to jump from the tallest trees in the world, you will also need a parachute and a glider.

Brown placed the five-centimeter salamander in small wind tunnels to test the capabilities of the umbrellas, the same species we see in the indoor umbrella garden, only the size of the salamander.

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Like human paratroopers, salamanders moved their bodies and limbs to slow their descent, and researchers say they slowed their speed by 10 percent.

Three other species of salamander were also thrown into the wind tunnel

Brown said that migrating salamanders are slower than others. They also pumped up their tails and moved their limbs to change direction horizontally.

Why did the race develop this special trick? The researchers wonder, because salamanders do not appear to be very dynamic or prone to flight.

One idea is to use jumps and falls to quickly escape from predators. In the laboratory, tickling the tail of a migratory salamander causes it to leap.

Another idea is that the movement of salamanders is a kind of transport – an elevator in the forest canopy. Brown believes that most jumps from tree to tree are 12 to 24 feet above the ground—high enough not to cause falls, but to endanger the salamander on the long journey home.

Another study said it would take hours or days for salamanders to return to the parachute from the ground. Giant Pacific salamanders lurk on the forest floor and hunt prey, while all their resources – food, moisture, companions – are far above the labyrinth of carpets and ferns. So jumping would be an easy way to orient yourself.

The researchers now want to assess in more detail how salamanders navigate the air in their natural habitat above the trees. In addition to field observations, ladders are used to drop specimens outdoors from a height of up to 60 meters to test this behavior in the field. Slip patterns observed in the laboratory are also compared with maps of pine crowns and salamander positioning to illustrate slip effectiveness at steep angles in their environment.

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The study showed that salamanders are able to move their bodies in a completely unexpected way – to turn around, descend with a parachute, and slide to the next branch.

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